I have two roles in my family. I am a father and a son at the very same time. At first glance, you might think that my relationships with my dad and my son are extremely linear –ie. My dad teaches me and I teach my son –period. But actually, the learning process is not so black and white.
If you spend much time around my house at all, you will find out that my son teaches me just as much as I teach him. For the most part, he doesn’t realize what he is teaching me –but it is powerful stuff. Aside from teaching me about Power Rangers and Thomas the Train, he also teaches me patience and priorities. These are lessons that I will continue learning for life.
Similarly, I have been able to teach my dad a thing or two. I’ve spent many hours helping him learn to use email and search engines; but I imagine I have helped him learn patience too… Okay, I know I’ve helped him learn patience!
I’ll be the first to agree that the more mature have a responsibility to train the less mature. But that does not mean that the less mature don’t have something to offer.
In fact, I believe that the more mature we grow, the more we have the ability to mutually teach each other as our relationships become less parent/child-oriented and more peer-oriented.
That’s how a family grows. And I think the same can be said about the way the church grows.
As a disciple grows, he needs people to invest in him while he simultaneously invests in others. Although many people have made attempts to chart this in a linear fashion (Dave disciples Bill, then Bill disciples John, then John disciples…), anyone who has spent time observing discipleship over a course of time realizes that it’s not always so black and white. Instead, discipleship is more like a family where everybody helps each other grows.
Disciples, then, need the family-like mutual edification of a local church. That’s why Jesus commands disciple makers to, “[baptize] them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
Each member of the church is a fellow disciple and disciple maker. Everyone has something to offer and something to learn. As time goes on and disciples love one another, encourage one another, exhort one another, rebuke one another, and correct one another; they become more like a family. In this discipleship community we call “church,” disciples are connected in a web of relationships that mutually disciple one another for life.